Symposium Update: Natural Disturbances and Historic Range of Variation

The Central Hardwood Region includes the Southern Appalachians. Photo by Ken Thomas, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Central Hardwood Region includes the Southern Appalachians. Photo by Ken Thomas, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Over 60 land managers, scientists, students, and professors attended a recent symposium on natural disturbances and historic range of variation. The symposium was held at the annual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists, and organized by Cathryn Greenberg, project leader of the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management unit, and Beverly Collins, a professor at Western Carolina University.

Speakers included experts from various universities, state agencies, and Forest Service Forest Health Protection. After an introduction to the region and its history of natural disturbances, speakers discussed disturbance types and their effects on upland hardwood forests of the Central Hardwood Region, including the southern Appalachians. The area is prone to a wide variety of disturbances, such as wind, fire, ice, drought, insect pests, oak decline, floods, and landslides. These events can kill or damage trees across small to large areas in the upland hardwood forests of the area, ultimately creating mosaics and gradients of structural conditions and canopy openness within stands and across the landscape.

Under the 2012 planning rule, national forests must be managed within the historic range of variation of natural disturbances. A large body of literature addresses changes in forest structure after natural disturbance, but synthesizing this information has been identified as a need. “The symposium provided a foundation for discussion on if and how historic disturbance regimes can guide forest management on national forests and other public lands,” says Greenberg.

For more information email Cathryn Greenberg at kgreenberg@fs.fed.us

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